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'Hackademy Awards' Raise Hackles

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The 'winners' at the 'Hackademy Awards' differed from the films honored at this week's Oscars — and the recipients didn't show up to pick up their awards. But the name of the program, designed to raise awareness about smoking in movies, didn't sit well with the organizers of the Academy Awards.

The Los Angeles Times reported Feb. 19 that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has challenged the Hackademy Awards with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. The awards, given annually since 1997, are a project of Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails.

Breathe California trademarked the name Hackademy Awards two years ago, but AMPAS is seeking to have the trademark revoked. “We are obliged to protect our trademark in all cases because if we don't protect it in one instance, it diminishes our ability to protect it in others,” said AMPAS spokesperson Leslie Unger. “We have no opinion whatsoever on what they're doing, merely the phrase they're using. We can't allow that to become confused with this organization in any way.”

This year's “thumbs down” Hackademy Award went to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which organizers said included more than 100 instances of cigarette smoking without addressing negative consequences. The “thumbs up” award went to “What Happens in Vegas,” which had no smoking scenes.

“There was no tobacco and nobody missed it,” said Breathe California deputy director Kori Titus. “Nobody left the movie saying, 'I can't believe they didn't show tobacco.' The point is that it's rarely so integral to the plot and people rarely miss it when it's not there.”

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